Friday, February 25, 2005

Catch Up

Haven't felt very bloggish these past few days, it sometimes strikes me as being overly vain. The reading of Magic Mountain has contued and I attempted to post on it yesterday but it was my virgin experience of having a blogspot Macbethed. The sections read this week are seminal, the viewing of the film in the village by Hans, Joachim and the invalid is stunning on par with a similar situation in Nabokov's Mary. The subsequent event of the Carnival is beyond expectation as is the debate between Hans and Settembrini and the courting of the Russian nymph.

An aphorism of Nietzsche's about preserving the majority of one's day has been on my mind throughout the week.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Muddy Anonyminity

I am Augie March. It is hopeless. Whatever aspirations towards speciality I might covet, the helpless truth is that I ramble. There were hopes that even my focus of literature from Russia and the deep South would only be fortified by the example of The Magic Mountain. Alas I was unaware that such a sudden, swift impulse would clamor, one that would demand that I be engulfed in the Murakami. It is days later, and i still feel uneasy in its wake. I have thought about its foundational shafts, 1001 Nights and the Tales of Genji are staked deep for assurence. The use of Yeats and John Coltrane. It is a good morning and the espresso is fine.

Re-engagement with Thomas Mann has been fecund in the last 24 hours. I have reached a new plateau of p. 300. The chapter Research which evidently signalled my surrender years ago, on my last attempt per ascension, was plowed through, the anatomical metaphors and unchecked theory were stunning, only to reach the origins of pathology and the definition of Sin.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Today will perhaps yield a normative adjustment after the Nipponese flourish. Murakami is such a distinctive voice. The territory achieved in Kafka on the Shore is remarkable and yet as ethereal as an unexpected breeze.

The need to read continuously was a test of capacity, I suppose. My dreams appeared blunted as if the Master had compromised my own imagination by sharing his grand pallette.

Kin and Kind

The rain persisted this a.m. and I was resolute. I decided around noon that after N and I returned from shopping i was going to read the new Murakami in one sitting. I did just that: 435 pages in seven and a half hours. There is much to document about Kafka on the Shore but other than mentioning its comparisons to Cloud Atlas and Powers' Plowing The Dark I will refrain until the a.m. Godspeed.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Marshall Frady

When the Oxford American arrived a few weeks back, I forced myself to read it gradually, combing through its plethora, preserving without any conscious allusion to tantric mechanics. One of the articles which has since struck me is on Mr. Frady, of whom I was unaware much like Douglas Southall Freeman and dozens of other notable Southern literary figures. A journalist and biographer, Frady appears to be similar to Liebling in that he was wordsmith, a duststorm of metaphors which he could unleash at will. He died last year and will be known, apparently, for his biographies of such disparate figures as George Wallace, Billy Graham and Jesse Jackson - the latter gave the eulogy at his funeral. He appears to have been eternally grateful to have been present during the Civil Rights Struggle, perhaps one of the last crackles of honest emotion in our variegated history.

Frady published a bio of Marin Luther King Jr. in 2002 as part of the Penguin Lives series. I checked the tome out of the library this afternoon and was flabbergasted on the first page:

At the same time, the South seemed a region that belonged to some older, more primal and gutteral script about the human situation, tribal stark, fatal, that was whollyoutside the general American sensibility of rationality and optimism.

All schedules aside, this turning of phrases is remarkable, this adjustment of refration and antiquity speaks to stir for those so disposed. Included in the Oxford article is a 255 word sentence from an essay included in his text Southerners.

But the interstates have razed their way on out into the last aboriginal outbacks of the South, and in all the Fox's Dens and Bali-Hai Lounges of the motels that have accumulated along their length, townsmen from the peanut gins and feed mills of nearby scruffy little communities - great-grandsons of Jackson's fance skirmishers and Jubal Early's mounted raiders, who were accustomed until recently only to the beercan-pop-ping hoot and stomp of local pine-planked honky-tonks - gather on a Saturday night to roost, in khakis and clay-clotted brogans, in a windowless grottolike clandestine gloom lascivious with dim glows and quilted leather and a sweet whisky-tinged must of the urbanely illicit, finguring damp paper napkins imprinted with raffish cartoons as they brood over their bourbon-and-ginger-ales at the waitresses bobbling back and forth in Bo Peep thigh ruffles and net stockings, all the while mulling the savoryintimations of secret abandoned sheet-thrashings in the rooms along the rear parking lot, until inevitably one of them, after a waitress' leggy passage by him, jumps atop a table with a loud obscene yap of supplication, and then, as he is being herded toward the door by the manager, snatches up a chair and sends it skidding calamitously down the length of the bar with a parting bawl of outrage and longing -this, a hundred years later, about all that is left of those legendary heedless charges with gleeful yodels up the slopes of Cemetary Ridge and Malvern Hill.

Such feats, so little notice or acclaim but what a wonder; I recall a New Historian theorizing that Proust is indicative of the Surplus Labor of a Late Bourgeois society: who can complain, my friends?


This a.m.'s reading was fuzzy, littered with the echoes of last night's city coucil meeting. Coffee-then-espresso failed to shovel aside the brainmuck and I finally found a measure of peace only when reading about the finale of Chancellorsville and the passing of Stonewall Jackson. My wife is asking that I stop the narrative and rejoin the trek up Magic Mountain and like those maddened Russian guides in Nepal, I will make the attempt without portable oxygen. The death of Jackson was an opportune section of the Narrative to halt as such concludes not only the chapter but the Section and what follows, Vicksburg and Gettysburg is a sphere of thought all itself.

Yesterday's commentary by Roger and Ed was most welcome. My mindscape of the Civil War lacks the precision that my friends have in abundence. While at the University I focused on the "peculiar institution" and only read and thought about the myriad effects that the war had on human bondage. Names such as Foote, Catton, McPherson and Freeman were absolutely alien to me. The independant council of my brain which routinely examines the actions of my life and invariably misattributes them has been active of late, thinking now that my sudden interest in the Civil War has something to do with last fall's election. I am not sure nor do I hope to be. What I do appreciate about Mr. Foote is the panache by which he relates that which has been routinely deified since the War even ended and instead colors the skyscapes with all its deserved visceral damnation: the reader will find no shelter here.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ladies Gunboat Fair

Such an event recalls the glib asides of the late 80s when soccer moms asked what if the Pentagon had to have bake sales to purchase a new bomber. Such was evidently protocol in that honorable south. Great waves of text have rushed by, foaming on the edges with character and data. Grant makes seven failed attempts to encroach upon Vicksburg without bearing the brunt of its defenses. Sherman delivers quips from most of these remote endeavors and maintains his composure throughout. These efforts, directed by Grant to avoid idleness as much as anything are the source of outrage by journalists and politicians. One such newspaper editor wrote to Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury:

Grant, entrusted with the our greatest army, is a jackass in the original package. He is a poor drunken imbecile. He is a poor stick sober, and he is most of the time more than half drunk, and much of the time idiotically drunk. . .Grant will fail miserably, hopelessly, eternally. . .

I think Grant is becoming my personal hero in this Narrative: Human, all too Human. Attrition is meanwhile becoming capital for the Confederacy and Lee recognizes the peril of his ranks. He then unleashes a brilliant series of fortifications and entrenchments which maximize the effectiveness of his depleted ranks.

Hooker has recently been promoted by Lincoln and mounts a vast globe of hubris, the gravity of which leads him to Chancellorsville.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


It has been good hunting as of late, milking the used vein (star-crossed metaphors) at Half Price Books for a copy of Grass' My Century, which I have read and The Emperor's Tomb by Joseph Roth, which I look forward to reading. The latter apparently follows the saga of The Radetzky March after the Great War. Per Roger's advice, I joined the History Book Club and rec'd my grand haul yesterday: Gulag by Applebaum, Grant's memoirs, Harvest of Despair, about the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine and McPhereson's book about Antietam


The section that yielded yesterday's quote was truly remarkable, interrupting the otherwise seamless torrent of narrative with a welcomed fatty deposit of analysis, specifically on the economic impact the war had on the opposing regions. The North, by any standard, flourished during the four years of conflict. Foote defended his often repeated thesis that the North never devoted itself completely to the war and, conversely, that the South gave all it had, though it remained hamstrung by its own seperatist tendencies i.e. certain govenors wouldn't allow their troops to fight in other states and that after President Davis requested that all farms be devoted exclusively to the war effort, many plantation owners declared that they would continue to plant cotton and damn the arrogance of the Chief Executive. Inflation devoured the Confederacy's wealth and then starved its citizens, as early as the winter of 1862/63. Meanwhile Northern areas out west became Territories and expansion boomed.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pagan Blood

Greeting cards and fertility rites collide on this rainy a.m. My reading was certainly tempered by the basketball and that sensation ostensibly understood as the Grammy Awards. That said, I have reached an amazing section of the Foote Narrative.

The North was fighting the South with one hand and getting rich with the other hand behind its back, though which was left and which was right was hard to say. In any case, with such profits and progress involved, whoc ould oppose the trend except a comparitive handful of men and women, maimed or widowed or otherwise made squeamish, if not downright unpatriotic, by hard luck or oversubscription to Christian ethics? (15o)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Updating the list

7) Shiloh - Foote
8) Wild Berries - Yevtushenko
9)Interviews With Shelby Foote

Catching my breath I have pondered that I may read Blood Merdian by Cormac Mccarthy sometime soon. That will likely block the last Larry Brown from contention but alas my plate remains crammed, overlaoded and dripping. It appears that a Lincoln bio will be the next selection for the Samizdat blokes. It will easily be approaching the ides of March before both the Mann and the second volume of the Narrative will be put to rest. I think Mr. Waugh will also suffer from the competition, his unapproachable style doesn't appear as immediate as these other tasks.

Books littering around the foot of my bed which snipe at my attentions: Line of Beauty by Hollinghurst, Kafka on the Shore by Murakami, Lee (the abridgement in one volume) by Douglas Freeman, and That Devil Forrest by Wyeth.

An Ague and No Atrocity

My nap was fine but i aowke shivering and aching and loudly proclaiming that I was the latest victim of influenza. A few hours of reading followed and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Foote sections on the transmississippi and the ongoing hagiography of Beford Forrest. The hit-and-run affairs along the Yazoo appear slight after the carnage at Fredericksburg, which is seminal especially in light of its memorable citations. "Sir, we shall give them the bayonet,' from Jackson is fine medling of the eloquent and the pragmatic, whereas Lee's "It is well that war is so terrible, we should grow too fond of it," belies that hackneyed Southern philosophy which is often impenetrable. The madness of the successive Federal charges upon the fortified positions of Longstreet leave an air of desperation, that somehow the script didn't portend this disaster and as Roger noted, the writing was then on the wall ofr the Great War. As Foote is often quick to note the napoleanic tactcis hadn't incorporated the grossly enhanced lethality of the new firearms.
After the descriptions of slaughter, the following passage from Foote depicting the uncanny appearence of the Northen Lights to that bloody Maryland field is disquieting in its regal aura:

A mysterious refulgence, shot with fanwise shafts of varicolored light, predominantly reds and blues - first a glimmer, then a spreading glow, as if all the countryside between Fredericksburg and Washington were afire - filled a wide arc of the horizon beyond the Federal right.

It is my wish to continue the push this evening, hopefull reaching the section on Vicksburg as tomorrow there is aNBA doubleheader and such doesn't bode well , especially during the day.


Insomnia has ripped apart my weekend and left me with little per accomplishment. I didn't fall asleep until nearly four and awoke around nine when my dad called from Florida. I did finish Interviews With Shelby Foote last night/this a.m. and thoroughly enjoyed such, though editing would've helped given the frequent use of the same anecdotes in different interviews.

Regarding Foote's masterwork, Fredericksburg has worn itself out and there is much to post on this debacle but I feel some kip is essential at this point.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Little Purchase

The wheels of progress fell akimbo as I didn't manage that much in the Foote. The scene remains Fredericksburg and its early stages were of an urban nature. Its proximity to Rappahandock strikes me as being similar to Stalingrad as well a host of other solemn grounds. I remarked to N last night that I am amazed by the acidic tone of language that the armies use to describe their former countrymen. It is so easy to villify and thus destroy: N replied that we all have to keep our inner-Goebbels in-check.

I read a few pieces in the Oxford American over dinner and remain impressed by its research but find much of the submitted fiction to be average. The weekend has arrived and hopefull I will cut across the text.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Up The River

Finished Wild Berries just now, alongside a small tribute to Jimmy Smith. It was quite appropriate. the second half of th eloses the thread of personality device that supports the first half. A small plot appears as the geologists experience an earthly challenge and each of them tests their own mettle morally in response. There are then two brief sections with Americans, who first travel to Moscow and then reflect upon their experience back in the States, and then one featuring Salvador Allende on 9.10.73 -- only hours before Pinochet and the CIA doused the flames of his ideal. The novel then ends with a 19th Century mathematician/mystic: such was incisive per the ideas promulgated.

An Eye To The Plain

The page 200 of Yevtushenko's Wild Berries was reached last night before the soft tumble into dreamseas. The novel has been quite vivid both to location and to character. as to the latter, it reminds me of Turgenev's Sketches, tiny knots of human sensibility brushing one another in fornt of the hearth. The scenery of the tiaga must be amazing, breeding a not-necessarly nietzchean sense of the eternal return. It becmae quite clear that my travels northwward in upper Michigan and southern Sweden were not of this stripe.

The book reminded me initially of Bitov, especially given his tendency to lyricize the habit of fauna in place of recognizing the human government around him. This changes around p. 70 with a series of characters reminiscing on the Civil War and the famines which stripped the Ukraine in the 30s. Stalin himself is not named, at least so far in the novel but the entire spectrum of human endeavor is displayed, most notably amongst the geologists sent to the tiagra to locate a strata of mineral (a subtle contrast, perhaps, between urban/intellectual and rural).

I will finish the book this evening and am prepared to hoist the second volume of Foote's Narrative, though my wife proclaimed as that she will catch up today in the Magic Mountain. We will see.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Shiloh was completed yesterday afternoon as I took the outdoor cure in the gilded throes of a marvellous day.I thought that pacing of the text was remarkable and Foote added that every historical personage only said things which have been attributed to him from primary sources. I thought the sections pertaining to Forrest particularly were delineated with verve.

I must continue me train of apologies as indeed Mr. Foote did publish a novel, September September in 1978. Given some inclination to do otherwise i have resisted and will read another text from my 2005 list Wild Berries by Yevtushenko before resuming my reading of Magic Mountain. I read Die When You're Dead, Yevtushenko's novel about the attempted coup in Russia, in 2003 and was quite impressed with his eye for character.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Along Places of Peace

The morning at Firestone delivered a few hours of reading and i am nearly finished with Shiloh. Foote attributes his style in war-writing to Stendhal, Tolstoy and Stephen Crane. I would say it is also tempered by the dispatches from WWII, but such is completely understandable. Thoughts raced along as I read about what will be the next selection given that Natasa hasn't been able to read much these past few days.

Roger took a history of the influenza epidemic along to Maine and pondering that, I have thought of my own favorite books on pathology or at least the effected populace. In no order:

1) Decamaron - Boccaccio
2) Cancer Ward - Solzhenitsyn
3) And The Band Played On - Stilts(?)
4) Illness as Metaphor - Sontag

Magic Mountain might as well be added, alas, that's the ebb and flow.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Whispers across the Green

It goes without saying that given the attention Foote devoted to the the topography and correspondence of the civil war it is reasonable to assume that he could've written ten or more novels about the conflict all on par with Shiloh. I am not sure about the significance of that qualification. I also tend to think he wouldn't have produced a tome of the rank of The Sound and The Fury (who has, I ponder). The interviews with Foote reveal this arduous struggle to not only share with Faulkner but to supercede him. They met, of course, spending a few afternoons togethers, visiting bootleggers (for Bill's thirst) and haphazard attempts at tennis.

I discussed with Joel that Foote hasn't publsihed any new material since the last volume of the Narrative was published in 1973. Joel remarked that once those ideas are crystallized it isn't momentum which will result in subsequent production. He also related how a peer was at publishing cocktail party and met this elderly lady, whom she felt was important but couldn't identify her. The pleasant lady told Joel's friend that all was well and that her new book was coming out soon. A short time later the friend asked one of the hosts about the lady of importance. It was, in fact, Harper Lee and he quipped, she had been saying that spiel about her next book for 30 years now.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Completion Upon The Cheek

Cloud Atlas was completed last night; just to recount:

Books 2005
1) Civil War Vol. 1 - Foote
2) The Plot Against America -- Roth
3) The Newton Letter - John Banville
4) Cubano Be Cubano Bop
5) Men At Arms - Waugh
6) Cloud Atlas -- Mitchell

It is back to Magic Mountain, though it will be Shiloh by Foote, allowing my wife to catch up per the Mann. Upon digestion of the first 60 pages of the Foote, most of the novel is characterized in the pages of the Civil War Narrative. It is a well-tempered blend of historical record, poetic descriptions of the terrain and weather and minimal license per the thoughts and deeds of the principals.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I referred to Madison Smatt Bell this morning as a woman, I would've added that she was balck, if such had been pertinent. I realized later that a.m. I was mistaken on both counts that, instead, Mr. Bell is caucasian and lives in Maryland. I assume i must have blended the photographs of Danticat that I had seen in various publications and allowed that presence to slink over to Bell.

The Grind

My output here has been lacking, the reason being that my reading has been monochromatic and that my responses to Cloud Atlas have been published elsewhere and don't merit being reprinted at all. It is such a fascinating novel, raising questions that I ponder through the night about progress, culture and whether The Fall is inevitable. I am nearly finished with such and my wife has intimated that she would rather I read something else for a spell so as to allow her to move ahead in Magic Mountain. That is fine with me, though I think I will read up to p. 250 in the Mann so as to not lose the significance of the quotidian threads. It will likely be Shiloh from this year's To Do List. That my wife recently bought "us" the new Murakami and i bought her The Line of Beauty for orthodox Christamas: both of which are very tempting but it will likely be Mr. Foote as the novel appears to be manageable in a few days.

I have been reading the odd articles out of Oxford American and Bomb, which I bought at Randy's and such has typically illuminated new vistas on the horizon. The latest issue of Bomb is devoted to the art, music and literature of Haiti and i have found it fascinating. The issue, in fact, introduced me to Madison Smartt Bell, of whom I was completely oblivious before reading about her. Her trilogy of the Haitian Revolution is at the library and appears quite promising, even as I insist I will focus on the American south and Russia for my material this year. Anyone conscious would smile and ask me about the geographic affinities of either Cloud Atlas or Magic Mountain (not to mention Murakami or Hollinghurst). Marshalling some hubris, i respond per Whitman that I am multitudes.